Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Gather your tribe and light the candles because the longest night of the year is almost here. Tomorrow, December 21, we celebrate the Winter Solstice, a universally sacred occasion honored for centuries as a time to gather around a blazing fire, cheeks flushed and hearts warmed in soulful celebration.
In yoga, and in astrology, the sun symbolizes the soul. The word “solstice,” in Latin, means sun standing still, so in a sense, we could say the soul stands still on the solstice—maybe even long enough for you to catch a glimpse of it, as some legends say you can at this divine time of year.
The longest night (meaning it contains the most hours of darkness) is a deeply-trusted nocturnal delight, a sort of spiritual pillow where we rest our head and nestle under soft layers of a velvety void. The darkest night contains the most magnetic power, too; this is a time to draw forth what you want, to incubate your best intentions. As you’re cuddling in the cradle of a lingering midnight, nurture high hopes for your best new year ever.
Winter Solstice in the Northern hemisphere coincides with the sun’s ingress into earth-sign Capricorn, the sign traditionally aligned with the knees. Kneel in gratitude for your body, your practice, your life. Let saying the word knees be a kind of yogic mnemonic for thinking about your needs. Which ones really could use some attention now? While you are working on the answer to that question, please your knees in these poses, which connect you to Mother Earth.
Virasana (Hero Pose): Begin in a kneeling position. As you sit back, let this pose remind you of your most heroic self. Courageous in the face of darkness, you carry an inner light.
Malasana (Garland Pose): Keeping with the spirit of the season, the name of this asana is reminiscent of holiday wreaths and the fresh scent of pine—which is actually an aromatherapy associated with the month of Capricorn. As you squat on the earth and feel its support, remember that you are harnessing the energies of Capricorn, an earth sign.
Padangusthasana (Standing Big Toe Pose): In this standing forward bend, let your gaze rest on your knees. Offer gratitude for the support they bring to your every step. Thank them for carrying you forward into the joyous new year.
Winter Solstice has been a time of celebration, rest, and emotional and physical nourishment for thousands of years. The Feast of Saturnalia was a grand fête held in ancient Rome around this time of year to honor the greatness of Capricorn’s planetary ruler, Saturn. As you enjoy the longest night and the brightest lights of the season, please remember this: your soul is the light of the world. You carry the light within you. You shine.
Wishing you a soulful Winter Solstice, and a joyful New Year. Namasté.
Diane Booth Gilliam, MA, E-RYT shows how the stars and body align in her new book Yogastrology®: Yoga Meets Astrology, teacher training programs, and new DVD featuring 35 of the world’s most-beloved A-list yogis. Visit Yogastrology.com.